As DC's latest street food innovator, Coite Manuel is hoping to change the perception of the city when it comes to our ubiquitous hot dog and pretzel carts.
But unlike the eco-friendly On the Fly or the mustachioed Fojol Bros., Manuel is working with what DC's already got.
Food Chain, his new venture, gives existing carts a culinary boost by bringing them more diverse and higher quality menu items. Manuel currently partners with three carts to offer jerk chicken wraps and tacos, Caribbean bean burritos, coconut rice, citrus black beans and mango salsa. A fourth cart joins the fold this week with some Thai-inspired options.
In his former job, Manuel helped low income individuals start businesses. He saw an opportunity to bring better food to the streets, while helping food vendors make money. "I can impact the lives of these hard working folks," he told Metrocurean.
The business model is fairly simple. Manuel rents out a restaurant kitchen and at the start of each week prepares batches of food and freezes them for delivery. Participating carts place a daily order, and Manuel drops off the food each morning. The dishes are then assembled in the carts.
This is his first foray into the food business, but "I'm from a family of eaters and they taught me what tastes good," Manuel says. His aunt is the "culinary visionary" behind the recipes.
You can find carts selling Food Chain's goods at (see map):
• M Street NW, between Connecticut and 17th, and the newest cart starts later this week on the same block
• 14th Street and New York Ave. NW
• North Capitol and E Street NW
You can also follow Food Chain on Twitter for updates.